NASWA Journal Columns · Technical Topics, April 1996

Joe Buch, N2JB • P.O. Box 1552 • Ocean View, DE 19970-01552 joseph.buch◊

Technical Topics, April 1996

The NASWA Wind-up Radio Modification Kit

By now you probably are aware that the World Radio and TV Handbook (WRTH) for 1996 has awarded its 1995/1996 “Most Innovative Receiver Manufacturer” Award to Baygen Power Company (Pty) Ltd of South Africa. They received this award for the design of the Baygen “Freeplay” wind-up radio. The radio is designed for sale in the economically disadvantaged areas of the world where radio batteries can consume a significant percentage of the typical family’s income.

Exit 1 leads straight to the NRL

Figure 1 The NASWA Research Laboratory is easily accessible from I-295, between downtown Washington, DC and the Beltway. Stop in for a visit. (Buch/Brandi Photo)

Not to be outdone, the engineers at the NASWA Research Laboratory (NRL) have built upon this idea and designed a modification kit to permit the average SWL to convert his favorite receiver to a wind-up configuration. Why do this you ask? You say NASWA members can readily afford electricity and batteries? Sure, but think of the advantage of being totally independent of the power lines for DXing the really weak ones. No more power line noise to contend with. No more heavy batteries to lug along and go flat before the end of your next DXpedition. Now you can take your favorite DXing machine with you into the hinterlands without worrying about how you will avoid power line noise while still running your radio.

Don’t forget the aerobic benefits that will accrue to the SWL who winds up his radio for 30 minutes every couple of hours. No one will be able to call the owner of a NASWA wind up radio a couch potato.

In order to show that the wind-up radio is an idea whose time has come, the NASWA research engineers didn’t just modify some puny, low-current, solid-state radio. No way. They decided to develop a modification kit that would be sufficiently powerful to run a typical boat-anchor type of vacuum tube receiver. The results can be seen in the photos accompanying this article.

There are several advantages the boat-anchor has in the wind-up application. One of the problems reported by users of light weight, solid-state, wind-up radios is that the rotating mechanism causes a counter-torque which can cause the radio to spin when it is placed on a smooth surface. The NRL engineers found the smaller and lighter the radio was, the more susceptible it was to spinning.

Boat anchors make good candidate for this modification

Figure 2 Here is a wind-up radio for the survivalist. The rugged construction and wind-up feature ensures survival against even the dreaded black helicopter attack. This radio comes pretuned to 5065 kHz where you can monitor progress of the war with The New World Order.

Think of it like a helicopter. When the rotor turns to lift the helicopter, a counter-torque is produced which tends to cause the tail to rotate in the opposite direction. That is why helicopters have the small propeller on the tail to counteract this effect. The NRL research team found that the higher mass of the boat-anchor radio exerts a stronger force on the table upon which the radio sits. This stronger force increases the static friction between the radio’s feet and the table. The higher friction works to prevent the radio from spinning as the spring unwinds. (Patent Pending). A stock Collins R-390A weighs only 85 pounds. NRL engineers are working on the design of a weight-increasing modification for the Collins R-390A which, when combined with a Velcro foot pad, should eliminate any tendency for R-390A’s and similar radios to spin.

Older radios can be modified as well

Figure 3 The NASWA Wind-Up Radio Modification Kit is compatible with any furniture decor. This is a wind-up radio modified specifically for easy listening to Radio New Zealand. The wooden tube radio matches their music selections.

The NRL engineers have also developed a new solvent which should be used to clean and lubricate the wind-up mechanism and the contacts in the radio’s band switching section. This new solvent has the ability to absorb ether and actually enhances the sensitivity of the receiver.

Not everything the NRL research team tried was successful. They tried a propeller on a long arm, as used on helicopters, to inhibit the tendency to spin. The prop worked but was somewhat noisy and sensitive to air density. It was hard to find a single propeller size, propeller pitch, and arm length which would work from sea level to 10,000 feet. The breeze generated was nice on a hot day, however.

As an experiment, the NRL researchers glued a loop antenna to the top of a solid-state, wind-up radio. As the radio rotated on the desk, it would automatically provide sequential nulling and enhancement of all the stations on a frequency. This allowed our DXing engineers to log more stations than would be possible with a single loop orientation. And there was no need to manually fiddle with the loop position. NASWA’s marketing department research shows some users may actually desire the rotating feature of light weight radios for this reason. An inertial stabilization modification using gyroscopes will likely be offerred as an after market modification for those solid-state radio users who don’t want the advantage of auto-rotation.

For some reason the usual shortwave distribution outlets have refused to stock the NASWA wind-up radio modification kits. Sometimes truly innovative concepts take a while to gain general market acceptance. So, NASWA has decided to market the wind-up radio mod kit itself. The first samples are scheduled to be on the shelves of the Company Store by April 1, 1996. Write to Kris Field at the address on the back cover for availability and pricing information. Be sure to include the make and model of your receiver so Kris can quote you the exact price for your radio model.

Also, if you are ever in the Washington, DC area, try to stop by the NRL. It is readily accessible from the Beltway. Follow the Beltway to the South side of town to where it crosses the Potomac River. Look for signs to route 295 North. Take route 295 and get off at exit 1. The photo accompanying this article shows what the exit sign looks like.

Don't be alarmed by the security precautions

Figure 4 Do not be intimidated by the imposing security precautions at the NASWA Research Laboratory. We must protect our research from the prying eyes of other SWL clubs who want to purloin our precious intellectual property. (Buch/Brandi Photo)

As you can imagine with such important work going on, security is pretty tight at our research lab. Oh, before I forget, don’t be intimidated by the gun-carrying guards wearing Navy uniforms. NASWA conserves its limited revenue by purchasing surplus Navy uniforms for its gate guards.

Your right to visit the NRL is a privilege of NASWA membership. Just show the guard your NASWA membership card and your cancelled dues check for this year. You will be immediately certified and admitted. Transportation from the gate will be provided. You will be escorted by your own armed personal guide. You will be surprised and amazed at the amount of attention you will receive.

Now let’s see who the WRTH names for the 1996/1997 innovation award. Have fun and stay tuned.

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